Barstow/BLM illegal road closures…
We are home after a rather interesting weekend down in Barstow CA. We’ll take you through the time line of what happened with the BLM and their closure of the roads leading to the validly held mining claims of literally thousands of mining claim owners in the Mojave desert.
June/July: AMRA decides it is going to hold an outing at Slash X cafe in the Mojave. Route 66 and Temecula gold clubs volunteer to participate and join AMRA at the event.
August, we announce the outing.
September, all is going as planned.
September 28: we get a message (email) with some pictures of “closed to vehicles” signs on the roads leading to the claims by a club member who went out to mine the claims. We are told the signs “were very recently put up”.
September 28th: we call BLM in Barstow and speak to Jeff Childers who says he physically put the signs in the ground and portrays himself as the “manager” of that division of BLM. During the conversation, Mr. Childers states this is due to the WEMO plan and the roads are off limits due to the desert tortoise. I inform Mr. Childers of several court cases, including one by the US Supreme Court and Mr. Childers tells me , and I will quote here “the US Supreme Court decisions do not apply to me or the BLM, we answer to the Executive Branch”. Mr. Childers was provided with links to decisions which conclusively prove, by law that the owners have a fundamental right of access to their claims. Mr. Childers states he will respond no later than the following Monday to me with their stance on access. (The conversation took place on Thursday, he had 4 days).
Monday, no call, no email response.
Tuesday, I called and left a message inquiring about his response. No reply, no email.
Wednesday, another call, no response, no email.
Thursday: called and spoke with Katrina Symons, Field Manager who is the superior to Mr. Childers. While professional, she disagreed that these miners had a right of access stating it was because of the 2006 WEMO plan.
AMRA does extensive research on WEMO and discover WEMO is actually a part of a 2003 management plan involving critical habitat. We discover a lawsuit filed by the radical environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list dozens of animals, plants and other organisms as endangered to close thousands of acres of public lands. In that suit,a Federal Judge mandates the BLM to leave any roads which did not appear on the 1980 survey to remain open. He does this because the BLM in their survey in 1980 was “supposed” to list all the roads, including the roads we are talking about here, but they were lazy and did not list them, they left them off the maps. Because of this, the judge requires the BLM to leave them open.
We discover the road leading down from Barstow to the south is the line between the mining claims and the OHV area where many in the greater Los Angeles area go to recreate. We are supposed to believe the turtles only walk on gold bearing ground and do not cross the double yellow line of a highway apparently. This is why they prohibit on gold ground, but not OHV ground. Now, you all know we have OHV’s, we like them, we use them and we support them, but this argument is utterly ridiculous. Is the BLM’s educational program so great that even a tortoise can understand not to cross a highway? Why is gold claim ground the only ground with restricted access, but you stand 50 feet away and it is all open?
Throughout the following week Ms. Symons and I had numerous calls and email correspondence over the access issue and we made it very, very clear we would be accessing the claims as per the rights determined not only by case history, but also by their own governing manuals concerning mining claims.
Fast forward to the Thursday before the outing. Last Thursday Ms. Symons told myself and one witness via phone that she would not be denying access to any of the property owners wishing to access and mine their claims. Obviously we were pleased the BLM had recognized the fundamental rights of the miners and would not obstruct and prohibit their access any longer. Demanding anyone with a disability walk two miles through the Mojave desert carrying a heavy pack, up and down steep terrain in the heat is not just an undue burden, but downright illegal and demonstrably immoral and in direct violation of the ADA, the American’s with Disabilities Act.
Friday the 13th, we drove to Barstow and set up for the outing. We had agreed to have Ms. Symons stop by and provide us with some desert tortoise literature we offered to hand out and speak about prior to the outing. Nobody wanted to see any tortoises get hurt so she volunteered to “walk the roads prior to the outing to make sure the paths were clear”.
Immediately after the conversation about the tortoises, Ms. Symons stated she was going to take a picture of my truck and its license plate the following morning, fill out and sign an affidavit of this activity and submit that to law enforcement for my prosecution.
As you can imagine, we were taken aback by this abrupt turn. Thursday, just one day prior, she stated, with witness that she was not going to obstruct, hinder or prohibit access, but this day she said she was going to allow it, but proceed with criminal prosecution.
We’d like to give you the definition of a legal term:
Definition of entrapment
1 a :the action or process of entrapping
b :the condition of being entrapped
2 :the action of luring an individual into committing a crime in order to prosecute the person for it
Not only did Ms. Symons herself break the law with the very definition of entrapment, she also violated the rights of the mining community by illegally blocking the access in the first place. During these conversations, emails and correspondence, Ms. Symons was provided with specific cases, Federal rules on road closures and even a case where a judge specifically mandated these roads be left open. Ms. Symons ignores the judge, the Federal law, the civil rights of the claim owners and even evidence where her own BLM office violated the Federal laws on road closures. Is it the public’s responsibility to educate the BLM and its employees on the laws concerning the rights of the small miner, or is it the responsibility of the BLM to know the laws they are tasked with managing as they relate to mining claims?
During that conversation in the campground at Slash X, Jere, one of our Senior Board of Directors told Ms. Symons she had the discretion to open roads. Ms. Symons disagreed with Jere and stated she did not have that discretion. Jere produced a BLM document on the WEMO plan where it stated, very clearly Ms. Symons has the discretion to open the roads. Right there in black and white, placed right in front of her. A document by the BLM, for the BLM. She refused to open the roads.
Ms. Symons was asked to leave and she stated she would be there in the morning to fill out her affidavit on me, submit that for prosecution and that she would also walk the road to make sure no tortoises were present.
I told her I looked forward to seeing her at 9am and informed her what the “‘color of law” is and gave her direct and constructive notice that her ignorance of the law is no excuse for her to violate my, or any others civil rights. That if she was going to persist with the harassment, the denial of access and prohibition of mining, she would be held civilly liable since we had provided her with every document and had educated her on our rights. We educated Ms. Symons on the law since the BLM obviously doesn’t, or she willfully ignores the law. It’s one or the other.
Obviously, there is much, much more we provided to Ms. Symons during all of this correspondence, but we will save that evidence for a later date, with other folks.
Ms. Symons did not show up at the claim the next day, nor did her law enforcement folks, or anyone with the BLM. They did not show up Sunday either.
We’ll let the fine people in here decide why they didn’t show up, we certainly have our opinions, but one thing we do know is they didn’t seem concerned with the tortoise because they didn’t walk the road, we did…..twice and we filmed it. We had over 50 miners out there in support of us and we thank them for that, sincerely.
This is yet another prime example of how our own government, an agency with “management” in their title has gone rogue, ignores the laws, the facts, the cases and the screams of the public that pays for their existence crying foul.
There will be more on this case as we have started several other balls in motion today. For example, I just got off the phone with a Senator during the writing of this post. I will be speaking with the media later.
A big thank you to all the clubs and individuals who showed up at the outing this weekend in support and thank you to that special person in the media who was rather camouflaged all weekend…but still got the story. We’d also like to thank the San Bernadino Sheriff’s department and Capt. Mendoza for stopping by Friday (before the conversation with Ms. Symons) and supporting the small miners. We’ll be in touch.
Since we know the BLM reads every post we make, we have a message for Ms. Symons: I sent you an email today but I see you seem to be out of the office until the 23rd, I look forward to your response to my question.